Most Whatcom County school districts miss targets for state scores

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 11, 2013 

Test scores

A student works on a graphing assignment during a science class at Kulshan Middle School.

THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Most Whatcom County school districts fell short of their goals in a second annual report card released by the state Thursday, Oct. 10, but a few districts surpassed their targets.

The report card details where Washington public schools stand with state math and reading goals for students in grades three through 10.

The scores were part of the "Annual Measurable Objectives," which set yearly targets in reading and mathematics for 10 subgroups categorized by race, learning disability, English proficiency and income inequality.

Officials used test scores from 2011 to set a baseline for each group, and create goals to cut proficiency gaps in half by 2017. The system is designed to help officials target the groups that need the most help in closing achievement gaps.

Washington is using the AMOs to identify struggling schools instead of using standards set by the federal education law known as "No Child Left Behind." The national goal was to have every child meet state academic standards in reading and math by 2014. Washington received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education that allows the state to continue to try to cut the achievement gap by the 2017-2018 school year.

The subcategories that most frequently surpassed their 2012 goals countywide were those made up of minority students. Some of those groups also have the largest jump to make to reach their 2017 goal.

The gaps were calculated by the percentage-point difference between a group's baseline proficiency and 100 percent. For example, the subcategory of Hispanic students in Bellingham School District set a baseline proficiency of 43.5 percent for math in 2011. The group's targets for the next six years were set to incrementally cut the 56.5 percent gap down, so that by 2017, the goal is to have 71.8 percent of Hispanic students test proficiently in math.

Here's a quick look at how Whatcom County school districts scored this year, with the overall district results first. Student groups that scored on or above target are listed after that.

Bellingham: Below the targets for reading and math. American Indian student group above target for reading.

Blaine: Below the targets for reading and math. Asian student group above target for reading. Two or more races student group above target for math.

Ferndale: Below the targets for reading and math. Black student group above targets for reading and math.

Lynden: Above the target for reading, below the target for math. Asian, Hispanic, white and low-income student groups above targets for reading. Asian, white and two or more races student groups above targets for math.

Meridian: Below the target for reading, above the target for math. Asian, Hispanic, two or more races, and low-income student groups above targets for reading and math.

Mount Baker: Below the targets for reading and math. Hispanic student group above targets for reading and math. Limited English student group above target for math.

Nooksack Valley: Below the targets for reading and math. Hispanic and limited English student groups above targets for reading.

There is no penalty for schools that do not meet their AMO targets for a specific year, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. It is yet to be determined if penalties may be possible for schools that don't meet overall targets by 2017.

Lynden School District scored above target for reading, and only missed its math target by 0.1 percent.

"There are two things to look at here," said Jim Frey, Lynden School District superintendent. "One is performance; the other is the AMO targets. We have pretty significant performance and attainment of the targets."

The district's reading target was 76.3 percent; 79.2 percent of students tested proficiently. The math target was 69.1 percent and 69 percent were proficient.

Frey credited the district's literacy and math intervention programs and the adoption of a new K-5 literacy curriculum last year as having a positive impact on student performance.

"We're really proud of the work we're doing, but there's still work to do," he said. "We won't be satisfied until all students reach those achievements."

Meridian School District scored above target for math and had four subcategories score above their targets for reading and math.

Though the district didn't specifically change anything to aim for the AMO targets, the schools have had a large focus on math in recent years through leadership teams, said David Forsythe, assistant superintendent for Meridian School District.

The teams, made of 8 to 12 teachers and principals representing different grade levels, observe classrooms, looking for ways to improve instruction.

"Where with math we've been improving, reading is something we're definitely looking at," he said. "We're saying 'How can we get more instruction and best practices into our reading while at the same time honoring common core standards? How can we get students to ask deeper questions?'"

Meridian is also considering changing instruction to teach to pieces of the common core or adopting new curriculum, he said.

"The number one piece that helps students grow is the instruction of teachers, so we've done a lot of work with instruction over the last six years," Forsythe said. "But at the same time, where curriculum meets teacher instruction is where the achievement happens."

SEE TEST RESULTS BY SCHOOL

For detailed results for individual schools and more information about the Annual Measurable Objective results for Whatcom County schools, go to the Washington State Report Card webpage and click on the tab labeled "AMO."

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service